Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Much more than milk

A friend recently lent me the latest edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and I barely made it past the first page before I realised that this was a book I needed to buy myself so that I can highlight, underline and otherwise scrawl all over. There's a little gem of wisdom in every line. Even the introduction gave me a question to ponder that made me look at my breastfeeding relationship and what I value most about it.

What if you had to choose? You can either bottle-feed your baby with scheduled feedings and little body contact, but with your milk in the bottle. Or you can breastfeed your baby, responding to his cues, but only formula comes out of your breasts. 1
It is a hard question, as I take great comfort in knowing that Alice is getting the food designed to suit her needs. Particularly when there has been illness around, I have been relieved to know that she's getting all the nutrition she needs along with a dose of antibodies to help her along. For me, the answer didn't take too much thought as I can not imagine bottle-feeding a baby. Breastfeeding has moulded my mothering and shaped our relationship into what it is. Being the only one to nourish her in the early days could be hard, but it was immeasurably rewarding. It forces me to sit and focus on Alice, to make me get my priorities straight. It has also given me confidence in my body to do the best for my baby, and has made me trust my instincts as a mother. I know that our bond would be weaker if I had fed her in another way.

Thankfully, I don't have to make the difficult choice between the health giving benefits of my milk and the close relationship forged through nursing. It is credit to the La Leche League and other breastfeeding organisations that they are helping so many other mothers and babies reap the rewards of a happy nursing relationship too.

1. Wiessinger, D. et al. 2010. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, 8th edition. London: La Leche League International, xxi.

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